This is a complete solution to Image Color: A Hello! Project Puzzle.
At first glance, you see three grids, all of them eight by eight and having the letters P, P, and L in the same locations. This should be enough to clue you to line the three grids up and connect information across grids.
The letters also spell “ppl”, an abbreviation for “people”. This was entirely unintentional, but it makes a nice clue: You’re supposed to focus on people.
The title refers to the concept of “image color”, which roughly means that in an H!P group, different members are represented by different colors that are supposed to reflect their personalities and such (though I don’t know if I entirely understand this concept). “Image Color” is also the title of a °C-ute song, but it’s not directly related to this puzzle.
The only flavortext in the puzzle says “pyon pyon fumu fumu yeah yeah”, which is from Shugo Chara Egg!’s “Minna no Tamago”. The lyrics in this song include “what color is your egg?” and “everyone has an egg”. This is just to point you in the direction of associating people with colors if you haven’t already done so.
So how do we get people out of this mess? The first grid is quite colorful, so it would be nice to match up the colors with people, following the previous clues. In addition to colors, we have icons associated with those colors. The icons appear in eight sets of two, three, or four distinct colors, and each set (except one) has icons that look the same, other than the color.
Each set corresponds to a particular H!P group, and the colors in that set represent the image colors of that group. The symbol used is also a relatively clear reference to the group. Due to the nature of image colors, groups may change image colors over time, so some H!P groups are represented by more than one set of icons.
To identify groups, one should examine H!P media in which image colors are featured. PVs, concert videos, and CD covers would be good places to look. Since we know that the groups have two to four members, we don’t need to look at groups with other sizes. If you investigated the “pyon pyon fumu fumu yeah yeah” clue earlier, you would likely have seen enough to identify one of the groups.
The following table shows the relationship between sets of icons and H!P groups:
|Card suits||Shugo Chara Egg!|
|blue spade||SAHO AKARI|
|yellow diamond||WADA AYAKA|
|red heart||MAEDA YUUKA|
|green club||FUKUDA KANON|
|Dresses||Buono! (Rottara Rottara era)|
|Scarves||Buono! (Renai♥Rider era)|
|Noses||Kira☆Pika (Hana wo Pu~n version)|
|Horseshoe magnets||Kira☆Pika (Futari wa NS version)|
|Explosions with lightning bolts||Nochiura Natsumi|
|red||ABE NATSUMI||green||MATSUURA AYA|
There are other groups in H!P that have made use of the image color concept, of course, but I couldn’t fit them all into this puzzle for various reasons. I did overlook Robokiss-era W, which would have made cute robots.
Once you’ve identified at least some of the groups, you can consider the information given in the second grid. You can aim for getting a letter in each square, following the example of the “PPL”.
To do so, we can use the number in each square as an index into the name of the person associated with that square. Here we have a choice between given names and surnames, but no one in H!P has a given name with ten letters in it, so it’s more reasonable to index into people’s surnames. For example, in the top left square, we have KITAHARA SAYAKA and the number 4. Taking the 4th letter of KITAHARA, we get A.
Doing this for all the other squares gives you the following grid:
This is a word search. The words are the names of the groups identified above, split into words:
SHUGO, CHARA, EGG, BUONO, MILKY, WAY, KIRA, PIKA, NOCHIURA, NATSUMI, ECO, MONI
Once you’ve found all the words, the grid looks like this:
The leftover letters spell SO PRIEST FACES HORSE.
Since we haven’t yet made use of the third grid, we have to combine this information with the circled squares. The circles are either black or white, and they mark all squares containing the letters B K N P R. Furthermore, the grid itself is an 8×8 square. This is supposed to indicate that the grid is a chessboard, since chess is played on an 8×8 board with opposing black and white pieces conventionally labeled with the same letters: B = bishop, K = king, N = knight (since K already stands for king), P = pawn, Q = queen, R = rook.
That is, we have a chessboard that looks like this:
(Never mind the fact that the black king is in check or that there are three white rooks on the board. This isn’t supposed to be the state of a real game of chess.)
“Priest” and “horse” in the clue refer to bishop and knight, respectively. There are four knights and one bishop on the board (knights marked red; bishop marked blue):
The clue suggests making a move so that a bishop faces a knight. Since “priest” precedes “horse” in the clue, it makes a bit more sense (kind of) to move the bishop to face a knight than the other way around.
By the rules of chess, bishops can only move diagonally. Therefore, it is impossible for the bishop to face (threaten) two of the four knights (the ones in the top right quadrant). Furthermore, of the two remaining knights, one is the same color as the bishop, so it can’t be threatened by the bishop. This leaves the black knight on the bottom row. There are two ways the bishop can move to threaten the knight:
The orange path would leave the bishop threatened by the other black knight, while the green path does not place the bishop in danger. Therefore, the green path is a better choice for the bishop (questions of chess strategy aside).
Putting this path on the letter grid, we get
The green path takes the bishop through five squares containing the letters I W I S H in that order. This spells out the title of a Morning Musume song, I WISH, which is our answer.